Trails as Conservation: Road-to-Trail Conversion in the Restoration of Redwood National Park’s Lower Prairie Creek Watershed
A history of intensive, clear-cut logging adjacent to the historic boundary of Redwood National & State Parks (RNSP) in California’s North Coast has created a post-industrial landscape within much of the present-day park. Overstocked with an unnatural composition of timber species, severely degraded habitat, and crisscrossed with a network of abandoned logging roads sets the scene for the site of the Lower Prairie Creek Restoration Project. Remediation along this network of logging roads, in conjunction with forest thinning efforts, has begun a years-long effort to set this landscape on a trajectory towards a future stable-state condition. However, within the project site, there is limited opportunity for engagement through trails, and even less opportunity to understand how the story of this place, including its restoration, has shaped the land.
Research Objective: How can road-to-trail conversion and a proposed trail network in the Lower Prairie Creek Restoration Project Area at RNSP establish a precedent for documenting previous anthropogenic changes to an ecosystem while raising awareness and/or recording the benefits of ongoing restoration?
A review of both design and redwood ecology literature, coupled with field observations, mapping and trail network development has led to an iterative design process in concert with the development of a trail design theory that can be applied to a general understanding of how trails and restoration can advance conservation in sensitive landscapes.
Jack Pritchard, MLA, MS (CE)